Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Volume 3, Number 6: Money Can't Buy Happiness, But...

(Note: I originally posted this entry on February 13, 2008 on my Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)

My father once said, "Money can't buy happiness, but it can sure buy off a lot of unhappiness."

I came across a news story the other day that reminded me of Dad's statement.

I agree with what he said, and at least one part of the story.

There's one part I don't personally agree with--the study highlighted in the story that states that after watching a sad video, consumers were willing to spend more money than those that had watched a documentary (neither happy nor sad) video. But feeling sad doesn't make me buy things. I didn't have any increase in willingness to spend after my father's death or my grandmother's death or after seeing some film that made me cry.

Instead, I agree with Edward Charlesworth, a Houston-based clinical psychologist who spoke to the Associated Press about the study's findings, but was not involved in the study itself. He says we live in a culture that encourages people to buy to feel better, and the advertising industry knows it (he cited the famous 1970s McDonald's fast-food jingle, "You deserve a break today").

The article did make me think: What does make me spend? Sometimes I buy something to solve a particularly frustrating problem (e.g. a new fridge because not only was my old one even older than me, but that old fridge was causing my frozen food to get prematurely freezer-burned). Maybe it's when I feel a lack of accomplishment, and I feel the need to say to myself, I at least accomplished something (usually by addressing a minor problem). Other times, it may be from boredom (time to see some film or TV show from long ago, or that one day out of 300 that I feel like going to a restaurant to eat instead of eating something from my fridge or cupboard). Other times, it may be for peace of mind (e.g. certain car repairs).

They're all feelings that are far from happy, but they certainly don't make me cry, either.

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